Starka, often referred to as ‘Polish Whisky’ is an alcohol that originated in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus. While Poland is often associated with vodka, Polish whisky can be traced back to the 15th century and is associated with some interesting Polish traditions.
Facts about Polish Whisky
It originated in the 15th century
Starka originated in the 15th Century. Though there are countless tales detailing its origin, the most widely accepted story is that making Starka was a tradition in Polish households. When a baby boy was born, a family filled an oak barrel with alcohol, sealed it with wax, and buried it underground. It was then dug up on his wedding day and served at the ceremony.
Though referred to as ‘Polish Whisky’, it’s technically not whisky
Though Starka is referred to as ‘Polish whisky’ it’s technically not whisky. Nor is it vodka. Starka is made of rye, whereas whisky is usually made with corn or malted barley. Starka’s ‘secret ingredient’ also distinguishes it from whisky. It is infused with apple or pear leaves, which leaves no scent of ethanol and a milder flavour.
However, it’s made in a similar way
Like traditional whisky, Starka is made with fermented grain. It is made from natural, fermented rye, which goes through up to two distillations. Apple and linden leaves are then added, then it is stored in sealed oak barrels. It is sold in many variants, aged from three to fifty years.
It also tastes similar
Like traditional whiskys, Polish whisky contains hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and caramel. Its flavour is often compared to bourbon, which is known to be sweeter than other whiskys.
Its colour is natural, not added
Polish whisky is often described as having a caramel or brass colour. This colour is completely natural and is the result of a reaction between the alcohol and the oak barrels it is stored in.
A lot of people haven’t heard of it
Despite its interesting history, Starka is almost unheard of outside Poland, Lithuania and Belarus. Cold War politics played a role in this, as well as financial troubles experienced by Starka companies. Most people who enjoy Starka in countries outside of Poland have often discovered it while visiting or come from Poland themselves.